Remembering Rep. Dennis Cardoza, "The Pimlico Kid"

Submitted: Apr 27, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 He did it for his Mom:

 

When the new depreciation schedule kicked in the following year, Cardoza entered the industry, buying seven racehorses, including Regrettable Romance, Dad’s Little Man, Flying Spirit and Jade River.

“I have loved horses since childhood and regularly watched horse racing with my mother,” Cardoza, who resigned from Congress in August, said in an e-mailed statement. “She passed away in 2007. I used some of my inheritance in 2009 to purchase animals that were a shared passion for us.” -- Kindy, Fallis, Higham, Washington Post, Oct. 7, 2012

 

As the nation struggles with the political issues of the day and weighs the characters of the various candidates for high office, our hearts and minds turn toward our own, local political history. And as it often does, such research again unearths the fetid memory of our former congressman, Dennis Cardoza, known variously as "Shimp Slayer," "back half of the Pomboza," and in his last years in Congress as "The Pimlico Kid."

The following is an article in the Washington Post, written two months after "The Kid" resigned from Congress in August 2012 to start his career as a Washington DC lobbyist.

-- blj

 

 

 

10-07-12

Washington Post

Politics

Congress members back legislation that could benefit themselves, relatives

Five states are voting today. Stay caught up with the race.

 

 

 

Richest and ‘poorest’ members of Congress: Here’s a look at the current members who had the highest and lowest estimated wealth in 2010

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress-members-back-legislation-that-could-benefit-themselves-relatives/2012/10/07/c2fa7d94-f3a9-11e1-a612-3cfc842a6d89_story.html

By Kimberly KindyDavid S. Fallis and Scott Higham 

 

A California congressman helped secure tax breaks for racehorse owners — then purchased seven horses for himself when the new rules kicked in.

A Wyoming congresswoman co-sponsored legislation to double the life span of federal grazing permits that ranchers such as her husband rely on to feed cattle.

And a Pennsylvania congressman co-sponsored a natural gas bill as Exxon Mobil negotiated a deal that paid millions for his wife’s shares in two natural gas companies founded by her great-great-grandfather.

Those lawmakers were among 73 members of Congress who have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation in recent years that could benefit businesses or industries in which either they or their family members are involved or invested, according to a Washington Post analysis. The findings emerge from an examination by The Post of financial disclosure forms and public records for all 535 members of the House and Senate.

The practice is both legal and permitted under the ethics rules that Congress has written for itself, which allow lawmakers to take actions that benefit themselves or their families except when they are the lone beneficiaries. The financial disclosure system Congress has implemented also does not require the legislators to identify potential conflicts at the time that they take official actions that intersect or overlap with their investments.

 Members of Congress contact the House and Senate ethics offices thousands of times each year to seek legal advice on a range of activities, including their work on legislation that might pose a conflict. Between 2007 and 2011, lawyers for the two committees issued at least 2,800 written opinions to lawmakers, sent 6,500 e-mails containing advice and provided guidance over the phone 40,000 times, according to records kept by the two committees.

The committees rarely discipline their own, instead providing advisory opinions that generally give support and justification to lawmakers who take actions that intersect with their personal financial holdings, according to interviews with nearly a dozen ethics experts and government watchdog groups. And though Congress has required top executive branch officials to divest themselves of assets that may present a conflict, lawmakers have not asked the same of themselves.

Congressional ethics experts say reforms are needed. Harvard public policy professor Dennis Thompson said lawmakers should refrain from having narrowly focused legislative agendas that align with their personal investments. Disclosure should also be broadened, he said, so the public is notified by a lawmaker of potential conflicts at the time they are taking official actions, including when bills are introduced.

“Ethics rules are supposed to make things clear and transparent,” Thompson said. “They should not require the public or the media to go digging around to make the connections.”

The legislators, in interviews and through spokesmen, said they saw no conflicts between their legislative actions and holdings. They added that they have a duty to advocate for their constituents, even when those interests align with their own.

Last year, for example, when Republicans attempted to slash funding for public broadcasting, Rep. William L. Owens (D-N.Y.) was among a group of Democrats who fought to stop them. Owens’s wife is an executive at a public television station, one of nine public TV and radio outlets that broadcast into his district in Upstate New York. Owens disclosed her job when he spoke briefly on the House floor opposing the proposed cuts.

“From my perspective, I was representing nine entities,” Owens said in an interview. “It wasn’t like I was asking for a specific item for the entity my wife worked for.”

 

Jockeying for racehorses

For three years, the horse-racing industry tried but failed to get Congress to pass a bill that would change the way equine investments are tabulated at tax time. But in the spring of 2008, a new path opened up when then-Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) was appointed to a conference committee responsible for hammering out the final language of the next farm bill.

Within weeks, the bill emerged with a new provision that handed the industry what it was seeking — a tax depreciation schedule for yearlings that gave owners the ability to recoup the cost of their investments in an average of three years rather than seven. Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, publicly thanked several lawmakers, including Cardoza, after the new version of the farm bill emerged from the conference committee.

When the new depreciation schedule kicked in the following year, Cardoza entered the industry, buying seven racehorses, including Regrettable Romance, Dad’s Little Man, Flying Spirit and Jade River.

“I have loved horses since childhood and regularly watched horse racing with my mother,” Cardoza, who resigned from Congress in August, said in an e-mailed statement. “She passed away in 2007. I used some of my inheritance in 2009 to purchase animals that were a shared passion for us.”

After the horse purchases, in 2009, Cardoza joined the Congressional Horse Caucus and started holding his political fundraisers at racetracks. He also co-sponsored legislation in 2009 that sought to reduce the taxes winners must pay on big purses at racetracks. The bill did not become law.

After purchasing his first racehorse, Cardoza said, he and his staff sought opinions from the ethics committee on any actions he took that might affect the industry.

“My staff routinely checked in with the committee to ensure all of my activities and interests were completely without conflict,” Cardoza said in an e-mailed statement.The Post asked for copies of any written opinion, but Cardoza declined to say whether the ones he received were written or oral. Such opinions are not subject to public records laws.

He said he did not think his work on the farm bill in 2008 presented a conflict, because he did not own any racehorses at the time. He said the bill he introduced after he began buying racehorses in 2009 would have “treated all bettors the same” and was aimed at helping the bettors, not the horse industry...

In 2011, Cardoza joined the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, a group that advocates on behalf of the racehorse owners in the state.

“I sought an opinion from the House Ethics Committee before joining the not-for-profit TOC,” Cardoza said.

He acknowledged that he went to the California statehouse to talk to industry groups and lawmakers about state-level legislation that affects the industry, actions previously reported by the nonprofit group California Watch. The story raised questions over whether the activities constituted a conflict of interest. Cardoza said he was just “visiting friends” and his actions did not amount to lobbying.

In his role with the thoroughbred owners, Cardoza led the effort last year to create a coalition called Horse Racing United to lobby the California legislature on racing issues. Cardoza said he is no longer involved with the coalition’s efforts in the California statehouse.

“I encouraged various California horse racing industry groups to come together and stop infighting and to form a loose affiliation called Horse Racing United,” Cardoza said. “Once the groups came together, I didn’t participate any further.”

Cardoza left office to take a job in the Washington offices of a large lobbying firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, whose client list is broad and in recent years has included gambling companies that own racetracks, lobbying records show.In 2010, he reported earning between $55,006 and $175,000 from six of his 13 horses, which raced in California and Maryland. Cardoza said he currently has five horses and none of them are racing...

 

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